Review: Kings, queens and gods on Vikings

Before I get into this week’s Vikings review, I’d like to pause for a moment and remember Athelstan. Unlike Siggy, I didn’t really see his death coming. Sure, Floki has been giving Athelstan major side-eye this season, but still, I thought Ragnar’s Christian friend would last until the end of the Viking king’s reign. He will be missed.

When Clive Standen told me earlier this year that the siege of Paris was coming, I was excited. Then I spoke to the folks at Mr. X Inc. and Take 5 Productions, who do the visual effects for Vikings. From what they told me, this Thursday’s episode, “Paris,” would blow my mind.

And it did. Wasting absolutely no time with the journey around Europe, Ragnar and his supporters cruised up the Seine and had Paris in their sights. (That staring fight between Ragnar and Floki was amazing, wasn’t it? Floki looked pretty scared, if you ask me.) Unfortunately, the battle didn’t take place this week. But heck, you have to set up camp and prepare. And what preparations! I’m assuming Ragnar is playing Floki like a lute by giving him the important role of leading the first siege against Paris. If Floki fails, it will be his fault and because the gods are angry with him. But he might just succeed, what with those cool and impressive-looking siege towers he’s constructed.

“Paris” also introduced viewers to a pair of real historical figures in Count Odo and Emperor Charles, the former a bold, brash, calculating man and the latter a weakling paranoid he’s not as revered as his predecessor, Charlemagne, and relying on his daughter, Princess Gisla, to keep him focused. Charles clearly wanted to run off as soon as Odo reported the Northmen were on the way.

Meanwhile, back in Wessex, King Ecbert and Queen Kwenthrith were involved in a pissing match over who was the most powerful and it looks like Ecbert is going to win out. He has, after all, stayed ahead of Ragnar and is plotting to take over the land lorded over by Judith’s father. (Did anyone else find it a little creepy that Ecbert kissed his daughter-in-law passionately on the lips?)

The teaser’s for next week’s episode shows Floki leading the charge against Paris. A quick Google search revealed the Vikings didn’t sack the city, so we’ll see if Michael Hirst’s story sticks to historical events or goes off in a new direction.

Notes and quotes

  • The throbbing background beat during Ragnar’s voyage up the Seine set the tone for the episode.
  • I’m digging Ragnar’s bald look. Paired with those tattoos, he looks totally scary.
  • The snake and mouse Ragnar was holding in the camp wasn’t coincidence. But was Ragnar the serpent or the rodent?

Vikings airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.